A Very Unusual Hatch

Sarah’s hatch is finally done.  It didn’t end until yesterday.  Normally, chicken eggs hatch after about 21 days of incubation.  We have had them start as early as 19 days and start as late as day 22.  We have never had a chick survive that started working its way out of the egg after day 24…until this week.

For Sarah’s hatch, day 21 was last Friday.  We anxiously waited for something to happen, but day after day went by with nothing.  Monday was day 24 and we started wondering what to do.  We decided that if nothing happened by night-time we would carefully start candling eggs.  Evening came and nothing had happened so we pulled out one egg and candled it.  It was obviously still alive because I saw it moving, so we quickly put it back under Sarah and continued to wait.  One day 25 (Tuesday) we heard cheeping under her.  We sat and watched and at one point she lifted herself up for a second and we could see there was one live chick, one dead chick, and one unzipping from its egg.  We didn’t know if more might be unzipping because it was just a quick glance.  So husband reached under her and pulled out the dead chick.  We were careful anytime we reached under her (whether to candle or to pull out the dead chick), not to lift her up so we weren’t disrupting the egg’s heat and such.

We continued to wait.  By evening on day 26 we decided it was time to candle again.  The one we saw that was unzipping never made it out of the egg.  Of the other 8 eggs we found that 6 were dead, and two were still alive.  We put them back under her.  On Thursday (day 27), we could hear multiple chicks cheeping.  The first chick to hatch was still alive and well.  Sarah was letting it come out from under her to eat and drink by then.  Of the other two eggs, one had hatched and one was pipped and cheeping loudly.  We continued to wait.  By the end of the day on day 27 the pipped chick had died, never making it out of the egg.  But the other two were both eating and drinking and doing well and Sarah had left the nest and was caring for her two live chicks.

We are not sure what went wrong with this hatch to cause it to go so late and only two out of eleven eggs to hatch and survive.  It is also very unusual for us that 3 chicks died while in the middle of the hatching process.  We have only had that happen to two chicks in the hundreds we have set, but in this hatch there were 3.  It seemed like the chicks were very dry and stuck to their eggs.  Which might mean she had issues keeping the humidity where it needed to be.

We are glad that at least two hatched and are still alive so that Sarah has some babies to raise after all her hard work.  This was her first hatch ever.  Hopefully next time she sets she will have better success.  Eve is due to hatch on Monday, and she is an experienced brooder for us, so the results of her hatch will help us know if the issue was environmental or if it had to do with Sarah’s abilities as a broody hen.

I will try to get some photos for you all by Sunday Homestead Update.  But with the chilly weather Sarah is not letting them out much – which is good, she is doing what she is supposed to and keeping those chicks warm and alive, and we are very happy for that.  So if I can’t get any photos it is OK because she is being such a good mama hen.

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